Doin’ time: how to end up in a Chinese jail

iLook China recently ran a guest post by Lionel Carver (no idea if that’s a pseudonym or not), which details the writer’s experience being a guest of the government in a Chinese jail.

Subtitled with “A Cautionary Tale for Expats in China“, I was curious to read both what Carver endured and, perhaps most voyeuristically, what he did to get there.

His description of the long boring days (all eight of them), spartan comforts, and brief brush with man-on-man-on-man action were not without their charms. However, throughout the telling, I was finding it hard not to feel like Lionel got exactly what he asked for.

Carver’s reason for landing in the clink is pretty much absurd, from start to finish. Washing up in Shanghai, in search of the “jade dream”, he immediately shrugs off the ESL racket to try his hand at a less-worn path. He takes a job with a real-estate company that promises him regular pay and a Z-visa — neither of which materialize.

Eventually my 3-month tourist visa expired. I thought I would be okay as long as I laid low—but I was wrong. There are eyes everywhere in China, especially on foreigners.

It was in Huaqiaozhen, a suburb of Shanghai, that everything began to unravel. I had just signed a lease for a cheap, shared apartment, but, strangely, the landlord never came to collect the rent or sign the contract.

One Saturday morning I awoke to a knock at my door. I answered, thinking it would be the landlord, only to come face to face with a PSB (Public Security Bureau) officer checking identifications for registration.

Carver repeatedly fails to renew his visa or register with the PSB/police station. He also continues to rather blatantly dodge the authorities, who are quite obviously aware something’s, well, dodgy about this fella. He was finally busted after hiding out on his balcony in sight of the cops below — no translation needed, that screams “guilty of something” in all languages.

They took him to the station, explained he was staying in the country illegally with an expired visa (a fact that surely came as no surprise) and had the option to either pay a fine or go to jail for eight days. I’m pretty sure if we knew Lionel, like personally, we all would have known from the outset that going to jail was the option he would choose. I mean, his decisions up to that point hadn’t exactly been stellar — at least he’s consistent.

Go check out the whole story (really there’s bed shaking prison love that would make Tobias Beecher clench). “A Cautionary Tale for Expats in China” though? I don’t know iLook China well enough to know the blog’s readership all that well. We get a mixed bag of readers here at Lost Laowai though, and I’m decently confident this will be anything but a cautionary tale to most, if not all, of them.

In case some half-wit happens by though: if your visa is expiring — get it renewed. Do not stay in a country without a visa. It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. It’s certainly better than spending a week in jail. And if you do accidentally overstay your visa (and it better involve a one-legged Mongolian prostitute, the Russian mafia and a case of baijiu) for christ’s sake, pay the fine. Or, better yet — just take the fucking teaching job in the first place.

Photo from Flickr.